Thierry Neuville in phase with his new hybrid WRC


In its path, it is a whirlwind of dead leaves. Announced by the roars of its engine, the racing car rushes through the Piedmont countryside. Here, we love Juventus, Barolo and white truffles. And we also really like rallying. Despite the discretion surrounding testing the new Hyundai i20 N Rally1 WRC, fans have crept along the course. At each turn, they unsheathe their smartphones to immortalize the prototype with the camouflage look. Locals, for the most part, but also a few Belgians, come to discover the new toy of their darling. Hyundai has also invited some media, including RTBF. But no question of getting too close to the car …

After having carried out tests in the south of France, Finland and the Vosges, it is indeed in the north of Italy that the Motorsports section of the Korean brand has therefore continued this week the tests of the new version of its i20 WRC. After Ott Tänak and before Dani Sordo, Thierry neuville took the opportunity to reconnect with his future mount for two days. Time to simulate a rally, in reality a few round trips on short sections of asphalted, hilly and winding road, closed to traffic. A fairly innovative concept and ultimately very informative, according to those concerned.

Motorsport must be a technological laboratory

In a new season, a new car is nothing new. But this time it represents a significant development, not to say a revolution. At the request of the manufacturers, anxious to bring rallying into the air, the FIA ​​has indeed decided to put the WRC on hybrid mode from 2022. Eight years after F1, it was time. « It is a logical evolution of the company », Explain Yves matton, director of rallies at the FIA. « It’s part of the image of the automobile in general, and motorsport has to be a technological laboratory and to follow the big movements that are around the automobile. Now we don’t. It is only at the start of this engine in the WRC. It is clear that the cars that will be used in Monte-Carlo will be less efficient than those in Japan at the end of the year. It makes sense and it is part of the development work. « 

Hybrid system common to all manufacturers, bio-fuel, simplified aerodynamics, gearbox that goes from 6 to 5 reports – manual and more at the wheel – less adjustment possibilities or even tubular chassis, the changes are numerous. Enough to get the pilots out of their comfort zone, starting with Thierry Neuville, very critical a few months ago, now a little more in phase: “We had to relearn a lot of things, especially the hybrid system which adds a certain complexity. It’s exciting, even though I’ve never been a big fan of electric or hybrid cars. we have been deprived of a certain comfort and some nice advantages. Mechanically, technically, it is a step backwards on a lot of things, but we will have to live with it. There is also the « boost » of the hybrid system, which we brings a lot of extra power which will be very difficult to manage in the stages. The engineers and the pilots will have to work hard to find the right balance. There is still a lot of work, but things are progressing. « 

We’ll see more crashes than this year

This « boost » of the electric model, which is charged under braking, and which allows to benefit from a significant contribution of 100KW (134hp), is at the center of the conversations. It raises many questions, but still few answers. How and where will it be able to be triggered is still a bit unclear for everyone. What is less is the mandatory withdrawal of several elements related to aerodynamics, which « bind » cars to the ground. It is ultimately for me the most significant change « , specifies Neuville. « We feel that the car hits more, that it starts a little easier with the extra weight of the batteries at the rear. I think we will see more crashes than this year ».

Fans of the discipline do not necessarily hope to see more crashes. They especially want to continue to see the spectacle between three manufacturers (Hyundai, Toyota and Ford) finally quite close in terms of performance. What will happen to Monte-Carlo, traditionally the first rally of the season? For Yves Matton, « The gaps between the three manufacturers could still narrow, but that could also have the opposite effect. There is perhaps a manufacturer who has a big head start in its development. We do not know. Precisely, c s what will be exciting at the start of the season, to see how each team has been able to approach this new technology, but also how the drivers will be able to adapt to it.

Rendezvous from January 17 to 23, 2022 on the heights of Monaco for the first hybrid WRC rally. With inevitably a little electricity in the air …


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